Uganda: President signs anti-LGBTQ law imposing jail, death penalty
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed a contentious anti-gay bill into law on Monday, the Associated Press reported. The amended version of the bill does not criminalize LGBTQ people, but "engaging in acts of homosexuality" would be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. The bill was passed by the Parliament of Uganda in March and later sent to the president for approval.
Why does this story matter?
In Uganda, homosexuality was already outlawed under colonial-era legislation that criminalized sexual activity "against the order of nature." However, under the new law, anyone convicted now faces life in jail or even death. The bill was condemned by the United States, the European Union, and international human rights groups, but it has widespread public support in Uganda.
Uganda president signed Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023
Legislation mandates death sentence for 'aggravated homosexuality'
The new legislation mandates the death sentence for "aggravated homosexuality," according to the AP. "Aggravated homosexuality" is defined as sexual interactions involving persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as minors and other vulnerable people. According to the law, a person convicted of "attempted aggravated homosexuality" can face a jail term of up to 14 years.
President answered cries of people: Parliament speaker
Speaker of Ugandan Parliament Anita Among welcomed the decision and said that the president had "answered the cries of our people" by signing the bill into law. "With a lot of humility, I thank my colleagues, the Members of Parliament, for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of our country," she said in a statement.
Uganda's parliament passed bill in March
To recall, Uganda's parliament passed this bill in March and sent it to President Museveni for approval. Museveni then returned it to the National Assembly in April, asking for changes. This purportedly enraged numerous lawmakers, including some who feared the president would veto the bill in the face of foreign pressure. However, lawmakers passed an amended version of the bill earlier this month.
In March, 387 of 389 MPs voted in bill's favor
Only two of the total 389 MPs—Fox Odoi-Oywelowo and Paul Kwizera Bucyana, both from the ruling party—opposed the bill in March. President Museveni stated in February that the West, especially the United States, is attempting to push other countries to embrace homosexuality, which Uganda would not tolerate. He requested a medical opinion to determine if gays were "deviations from the normal" or natural.
Angry international response; US warns of economic implications
Meanwhile, the US has warned of economic ramifications over the new law, which Amnesty International previously condemned as "draconian and overly broad." In a joint statement, the leaders of the UN AIDS program, the US president's special group for AIDS, and the Global Fund also stated they "are deeply concerned about the harmful impact" of the law on public health and the HIV response.